Q1: Why League play? What is your problem with tournaments?
MB: I don’t have a problem with tournaments at all. In fact, Prospect Wire runs tournaments year-round. The end-game of the World Scout League is also a tournament. I believe they have a place. But tournaments have become too watered down, there are too many people running them, they are too spread out, they give little care to the health of the player and they’ve become meaningless. The problem is the nature of these types of events and it’s not something that should be played weekly. Your body is not prepared to go through a grueling summer and fall of endless tournament play.
Q2: Do you believe that people profiting off of youth/amateur baseball is wrong then?
MB: Not at all. If you don’t make a profit, how are you able to sustain what you are trying to do long term? If you can’t pay yourself a salary, how can you put the time and effort into something that it deserves? To do things the right way, this is a 24/7/365 job. Anything less and it reflects when you go to run your events. I personally get phone calls on my cell phone from college coaches and travel coaches on the east coast at 8am eastern, and then the west coast guys call me at midnight eastern. Christmas Eve, Sundays, it doesn’t matter. So yeah, it’s definitely a 24/7 job. And anything that requires that much of a time investment, needs to require compensation.
Q3: Do you believe travel coaches charge too much for their teams?
MB: There are always a few who give everyone a bad name by going overboard - but in general - no. In fact, a lot of times they charge too little. There are countless travel coaches that continue to break even or lose money year after year and they put a lot of work into it. When you really break the costs down for a family, a lot of times their biggest expense is the travel itself, not the team fee. Travel teams charge what they need to charge to cover their entry fees into events, travel, uniforms, etc. And if the travel team has a qualified coach who works with the players, too? They definitely charge too little. I know that sounds crazy, but summer baseball just isn’t for everyone. As a parent, you can’t demand the best facilities, stat tracking, scouting reports, nice uniforms, coaching, travel, and all of these things and expect it not to come at a price. Travel coaches have done everything they possibly can to lower their team costs to the bare bones to compete with one another in recruiting quality players - and many times they end up losing money because of it.
Q4: 18U or 17U?
MB: Depends on what for. Every age group has different goals. 18U is a mixed bag of older kids and younger kids playing up. Sometimes it’s all graduated kids looking to get some competitive games in before they head off to college. 17U is a specialized age group created specifically to put recruit-able kids on one team. It seems like the whole country isn’t on board with the 17U concept yet and they still do 18U exclusively in some parts.
Q5: If you can name one goal of the World Scout League, what is it?
MB: I can obviously name a lot of goals, but ultimately it would be to bring ‘real’ baseball back. That has sort of been our slogan or tagline if you want to call it that. I just don’t think the current setup prepares players for the next level and has too many flaws that aren’t good for the players or the game.
Q6: There are people who claim travel baseball is all about exposure. How do you defend the statement that your primary goal is to bring ‘real’ baseball back and it isn’t exposure?
MB: There are a million tournaments, showcases, camps, etc. I would say we’ve gotten to over-exposure at this point. Exposure has gotten so oversold and has dominated the mindset of so many people. Exposure has blinded them to the fact that 2 / 3 baseball seasons is exposure oriented. Spring is development, summer is exposure and fall is exposure. That’s not good. Especially when you extend that out over 3 or 4 high school years. 66% of their time is spent in showcase ball, and 33% is spent in competitive development. That’s worrisome. It’s important for every player to catch on with a travel team and play in different events if they can, but I would also want a coach with a pedigree or experience who really knows his stuff on the field.
Q7: Why is it “not good” that player’s receive exposure 2 out of the 3 seasons?
MB: It’s not that getting the exposure isn’t good. It’s just that there are a lot of non-baseball people that profit off of promises of exposure. The one ticket to a parent’s heart is the promise of a college scholarship for their child and it has allowed unethical people to get involved in baseball. Non-baseball people that say it doesn’t matter who coaches the team, as long as they get you into the big tournaments and in front of the scouts. If a non-baseball person is your coach every summer and fall that is a major lack of development over 3 or 4 years. That’s not good for a developing high school player to spend that much time away from proper supervision who is at a critical stage of development. If you’re playing good baseball, people will come watch.
Q8: What do you classify as a non-baseball person?
MB: It’s hard to give this answer without offending somebody but I guess there would be different levels. Someone who never played the game past high school is usually not in a position to give anyone advice on how to advance beyond high school ball. Or a person who isn’t truly engulfed in the game. Someone who doesn’t eat, breathe, and sleep baseball and does it as a hobby. Many times it’s a dad who spun off of an existing team, created his own team, and begins joining tournaments with a group of friends. Baseball is the ultimate father-son game, but once you get to a certain level, it’s time to let them be.
Q9: Give me your biggest pet peeve in summer baseball?
MB: I’ve got a few, but coaches wearing shorts has always made me cringe. I always kid with a few of them about it and they tell me it’s too hot. But the thing is that travel coaches aren’t the first ones to ever have to coach a game in 100 degree weather. Baseball is a summer game. The MLB All-Star game is called the Mid-Summer Classic. Every baseball coach in any kind of organized structure wears baseball pants. High school, college, and pro. You can tell who the real baseball guys are when they show up in baseball pants. One guy off the top of my head is Chet Lemon. Full uniform. Not a coincidence that he was a successful big-leaguer and his teams are extremely well coached. Anytime a coach shows up in baseball pants, I know their team is going to play the game the right way and they will have a good shot of winning anything they do. And by the way, you’ll notice these teams usually have a good following of coaches and scouts. We joked around internally that we wanted to call our League the “United States Baseball League for Travel Coaches that Wear Baseball Pants”, but the acronym for it wasn’t very catchy.
Q10: Here’s a situation: You’re coaching a summer team. Bottom of the 7th, you’re down 1, leadoff runner gets on base. A few college coaches are there to see your next hitter swing the bat. Do you sacrifice him or let him swing?
MB: Sacrifice him. College coaches get paid to recruit, and if they don’t want an unselfish guy that is a team player and knows how to bunt in key situations then maybe they are looking for the wrong guys. If the player interests them enough, they’ll make a very strong effort to see him again. Nobody recruits a player based on one at-bat.
Q11: Some people would say who cares if the team wins the game? Isn’t it more important to showcase the player?
MB: Once again, the player has all summer and fall to showcase. Baseball is a team game, and the player needs to learn how to play at a high level within a team structure. Bunting, and clutch bunting, is an exceptional skill to have. The coaches that are recruiting him get paid big bucks to win baseball games. That includes sacrificing your out in pressure situations for the greater good of the team. I promise you, if he gets that bunt down, it will make a bigger impression on the schools there than any line drive in the gap would have. Colleges will drool over an unselfish guy who knows how to bunt in key situations. I bet you for some of those schools there, an act like that may be the one thing that sticks on that coaches head the most. Coaches are trying to recruit guys that can help them win games, so why would they not want to recruit a fierce competitor that can’t stand losing? I am going to go out on a limb and say they want a fierce competitor who is willing to risk losing a look from some college coaches so he lay down a sacrifice bunt to win a summer game. That would show me a lot about that kid’s character.
Q12: What is one of the most memorable moments of your recruiting process when you were recruited to UF coming out of high school?
MB: Well this actually ties-in somewhat with the question about sacrifice bunting. I was a soft-tossing lefty out of high school and didn’t get a lot of big looks, so I had to be pro-active. I wanted to play at UF and I would call Andy Lopez and Mark Wasikowski and tell them about my interest. I let them know right away that I knew my strengths and weaknesses and asked their upcoming schedule so they could see me pitch. I eventually got to throw in front of Coach Lopez and I threw a complete game shutout. A few days later he offered me a scholarship. When he offered me, he told me he liked my pitchability, mound presence, and all of these different things. But he told me that the thing that sold him about me was that I always personally called him and didn’t write him emails and I didn’t have my mom or dad do anything for me. He said he gets hundreds of emails and phone calls from moms and dads. Anyone who is man enough to call someone on the phone shows that they are ready for college, to live on their own, and be successful. I think Lopez and Auggie Garrido are the only two coaches to win a National Title at 2 different schools. So to say a successful coach looks at the big picture and the small details in recruiting would be an understatement. He would be the type of coach who would recruit a kid who sac-bunted in a summer tournament.
Q13: Give me your most overrated tool that a baseball player can have?
MB: Position players arm strength. Especially when it’s registered with a radar gun in MPH. All that gets is the exit speed from the hand but doesn’t take accuracy, carry or time to get rid of it into account. The MLB 20-80 scale from a qualified eye does a much better job. How many times in a game does arm strength come into play? For an OF, how many times a game does the difference between a 30 arm and a 50 arm come into play? Maybe once? If we measured Omar Vizquel’s arm strength on a radar gun, and that was really what was important, where would he be today? Also a big believer that ‘he who hits - plays’. You can throw 100mph from the OF, and run a 6.3 60. But if you can’t hit, good luck to you.
Q14: How do you identify the good travel programs, or in other words, what do the good programs have in common?
MB: Good programs go in cycles. A team may be the flavor of the week, but then a new team surfaces in their area and they end up being the good program over the next 4-5 years. And then that team loses some key people, and another team surfaces. The one constant is usually good baseball people at the top and throughout the program. Some programs may be the greatest thing, and then 3 or 4 years later they fold. This is still amateur baseball, and stability is rare to come by.
Q15: What is one thing you want to improve about your events?
MB: I’d love nothing more than for teams to take a pre-game IF/OF, but the problem is it chews up the fields more than anything else. So facilities really shy away and prevent event hosts from allowing teams to take pre-game IF/OF when there are 4-5 games per day on a field. That’s 8-10 IF/OFs per day on a field when you consider that both teams need to take [a pre-game].
Q16: Name one thing you learned as you presented the World Scout League to coaches across the U.S.?
MB: Probably just how common or similar everyone’s thinking was. The problems with travel baseball are the same regardless of where they were from. I thought certain issues might just be a Florida issue or an Arizona issue. But the more coaches we spoke to the more that agreed on so many things about the current landscape of travel ball.
Q17: What’s one piece of advice you’d give to a parent trying to choose a travel team?
MB: Just do some homework, ask around, and once you commit - commit. Don’t bounce from team to team.
Q18: What is one thing you see in the current travel ball landscape that can save money?
MB: I think one thing is the obsession with playing at universities and stadiums. When you play at University of this and University of that, it’s very expensive. That expense gets put into the entry fees. Just because you are playing at a college doesn’t mean colleges will be there. There are some very nice JuCo fields and high school fields that are out there but everything has escalated to this point. Facilities are probably one of the #1 expenses in travel ball. Event entry fees and team entry fees would go down if parents didn’t demand playing at Podunk U for all of their games. If you have 2 good teams playing against each other they could be playing in a sandlot and people would come watch and recruit.
Q19: Give me one myth about web-based or online recruiting?
MB: That college coaches are all sitting around in their underwear surfing the web, looking at player profiles on different sites at the off chance that they may find a player they want to start recruiting. There are very few people, if any, that do this ‘needle in a haystack’ type of recruiting.
Q20: Explain quickly the series of events that took place to where you have ended up now with the World Scout League?
MB: When we started Prospect Wire in 2004, it was supposed to be web-based. We never intended to run events. But we wanted to improve our web-based concept, and the best way was to get the data in person at events. Not a lot of event owners gave access to what we were trying to do, so we needed to run our own events. Turned out we were more organized and better than what people were accustomed to and our events grew in popularity. We started in Florida and felt like if we couldn’t run one state properly, we had no business trying to do something anywhere else. And as we grew, we took a step back and just felt like something wasn’t right with what we were doing with all of these tournaments and showcases. We felt like things were broken in summer ball. We felt like we could fix some things. So we began improving our events, listening to the travel coaches, and eventually we came up with ideas to improve our Prospect Wire events. From there we came up with ideas on how to improve the whole process. People aren’t accustomed to change, and it may not happen overnight, but this is something we are putting our heart and soul into and we believe in this wholeheartedly. It benefits the players, coaches, scouts - it’s just a better way of doing things.